Writer Julia Walton will always remember the night she walked across the Chapman University campus, headed toward that nerve-inducing rite of passage for creative writing students – the workshop.
In those small groups, aspiring writers receive frank reactions to their early manuscripts from classmates and a faculty member. As a new student in Wilkinson College’s MFA in Creative Writing program, she was jittery. But she soon discovered she needn’t have worried.
“Nothing can really prepare you for that moment, but I was blessed with some lovely classmates who made everything less scary,” says Walton (MFA creative writing ’16).
Turns out it was also the beginning of her successful journey to publication. Walton’s first young adult novel “Words on Bathroom Walls” was recently released as a major motion picture and her second, “Just Our Luck,” published in December.
Here Walton talks about writing and how her Chapman peers and mentors supported her creative journey.
Going back to your student days, what was your first impression of the program?
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was still working in insurance, trying to find a way to escape from an industry I’d come to hate. My classes at night were such a relief because they reminded me that the world of books and writing and impossible dreams still existed. If it still existed, then I could find a way to get there.”
What is the most memorable moment you have about a creative writing class?
“Professor Richard Bausch read a piece I wrote about my grandmother out loud to the class during the workshop. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember that it lifted me. His praise at that moment gave me a burst of confidence when I really needed it.”
What did you appreciate about the program? Is there a takeaway that still serves you in your day-to-day endeavors?
“I appreciated the body of work the program allowed me to create. At the time I had a full-time job and I really needed the structure of a workshop to push me along.
I think learning what to do with feedback is one of the hardest lessons to master as a writer, and one of the most important things I learned while at Chapman .
Did you discover any mentors?
Richard Bausch once said that we would learn more from each other than we would from him. And while I’m not sure that’s entirely true because I did learn a lot from Richard, the lessons I learned from reading my classmates’ pieces and providing feedback really taught me how to listen and how to properly evaluate my own work. My professors guided my confidence more than anything else. The discipline of the courses was exactly the medicine I needed as a writer.”
Marrissa Childs (’21 MFA) is a student in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Chapman University, a graduate assistant and owner of JourneyWriter Press.